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Building Connections and Opportunity

Sagitawa is still expanding after 60 years


Sagitawa Friendship Centre | Peace River, AB


The Sagitawa Friendship Centre Team


The Sagitawa Friendship Society is a non-profit organization offering numerous services and programs designed to help and empower people. A pillar of strength, it has served the Peace Region since 1964.


“Indigenous cultural teachings and traditions are the foundation of everything we do here. It’s deeply embedded in our programming,” said Sagitawa Friendship Society’s Executive Director Marissa Geldart. “However, everyone is welcome to access and benefit from our services.”


Recently, the Sagitawa Friendship Centre opened the doors to its new building in downtown Peace River, the site of the former Al Adair Recreation Centre.


Executive Director Marissa Geldart and Elder Dave Matilpi

“Our goal has been to create a hub, and we’ve worked with community partners to make it happen,” said Geldart. “Our hope is to empower people of all ages and all walks of life by providing supports throughout the community.”


Friendship Centres were originally established to bridge the gap between on-reserve and off-reserve individuals, offering supports in an urban setting for Indigenous people. Sagitawa Friendship Centre has since evolved to support the entire community regardless of status or background.


“Our services are available to everyone, and now they’re easier to access,” said Geldart. “We’re happy to provide our community with a warm and welcoming environment that accepts, respects and supports all people. We are here to help people navigate resources for their specific needs—whatever they may be.”


Sagitawa has a welcoming atmosphere decorated with Indigenous handcrafts made using traditional methods. Some features include a full-sized gymnasium, commercial kitchen, a family room, public computer lab, public showers and a large cultural space.


“Our board of directors is very involved and has been vital in getting the new facility to where it is today. There is something here for everyone,” said Geldart.


Sagitawa is also the site of Indigenous ceremonies people can take part in. Some examples are talking circles, pipe and smudge ceremonies and journey of life ceremonies.


“We have an in-house Elder, Dave Matilpi, as well as local knowledge keepers who contribute to the cultural programing,” said Geldart.


Sagitawa works with schools, health services, government agencies, community organizations and other non-profit organizations to make programming more accessible for their clients.


“Overall, our main focus is to provide opportunities within the centre that empower individuals to become successful with their own specific goals,” said Geldart.





Sagitawa’s In-house Programming Includes the following:

The John Howard Society recently rented a space at the centre and offers a pardon program, which is new to the area. It’s a program that helps clients navigate the process of applying for a government pardon while absorbing some of the cost.


The Strengthening the Family Circle program provides hands-on learning in positive communication, healthy nutrition, traditional parenting, life skills and creative play.

The Building Better Babies program is a free, voluntary program that provides prenatal and postnatal supports for new parents.


The Circle of Life program is designed for those going through cancer treatments as well as cancer survivors. It involves exploring, developing and implementing cancer prevention strategies and ensuring healthcare access is equitable and culturally safe.


The Outreach Support Services Initiative helps youth who are unhoused or at risk of becoming unhoused. The focus is to support a healthy transition into adulthood with the help of education, training, employment and skills development. With workshops and opportunities of community engagement, the aim is to meet youth where they are, with a non-judgmental approach, to support their connections and sense of belonging.


Charley’s Good Food Box helps provide food security for participants by offering access to fresh produce and dairy products for a minimal fee.


The Central Circle aims to support families impacted by Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two Spirits (MMIWIGS2S+) and includes healing circles and healing events as well as education.


Out of the Cold Shelter provides a safe place to sleep for anyone in need—offering meals, access to laundry facilities and referrals.


Employment and Referral Services offers career workshops, job search assistance and opportunities to make connections in the community.


The Hide ‘N Seek Native Handicraft Store is a place to purchase beautiful handcrafted items from various communities throughout the region where people continue to use traditional methods.


There is also cultural and historical education as well as guidance/training for ceremonies, medicine wheel teachings, traditional teachings, protocols and more.


The Ground Level Youth Centre

With a variety of weekly and monthly scheduled programming, The Ground Level Youth Centre provides a safe and inclusive environment for youth. They provide free Wi-Fi, afterschool programming, travel and leadership opportunities, homework help and mentors.


The following is some of their programming:

Filling Our Tipis uses traditional teachings to promote mental and holistic wellness to youth and their families.


Hear Me Roar gives young women tools to assist with self development and life skills to promote self-esteem, healthy relationships and empowerment through talking circles and mentorship.



Man Up Zombie Apocalypse Training pairs zombie apocalypse training with practical life skills and traditional values to help male participants be successful.

Mad Scientist offers youth a chance to partake in interactive science experiments once a month.


Myth Busters debunks Indigenous culture myths and stereotypes.


Get Fit gives youth a chance to workout in a group setting with a focus on strength, flexibility, endurance and team building.


Food Fight is a once-a-month cooking workshop that teaches kitchen safety and different culinary techniques. Plus, it provides a nutritious meal they can enjoy.


Wisdom Seekers promotes youth resiliency and strategies to slow/stop the transmission of intergenerational trauma.


Right to Play empowers Indigenous youth to build life skills using culturally-relevant, play-based programming.


The Youth Employment Program helps youth gain essential skills to become more employable, confident and ready to join the workforce.


Golf World helps youth with employment readiness and provides work experience opportunities during the summer months.


Northern Indigenous Health Alliance, also known as the NIHA Safety Squad, is a once-a-month program that uses a harm-reduction approach to give youth the tools they need to keep themselves safe and healthy.


For more information, please visit the centre or check out their website at www.sagitawa.org.


By Laura Hanna | Photography by Dani Wearden

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